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Twins 7, Red Sox 3

Rattled Buchholz can't contain Twins

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / May 13, 2008

MINNEAPOLIS - His thoughts wouldn't stop. It had all happened too fast. His legs carried him from the mound, where manager Terry Francona had removed him from the game, to the dugout. That was when Clay Buchholz slammed his glove down on the steps. It was a moment of supreme frustration.

"It was racing a little bit," he said, about his mind. "That's a lot of runs I've given up in a short number of innings."

He is a young pitcher, of course, and he looked it after the game. There was a recognition of his future, of an ability to learn how to gain the fastball command that he has lacked in each of his last two starts, as well as a vulnerability. And a knowledge that, no matter what he tried, he couldn't do anything last night.

That was why, even after teammates had staked him to a three-run lead in the first inning, Buchholz was walking off the mound with Delmon Young on first base, seven runs already across the plate, and just 4 1/3 innings completed, in a game the Red Sox would lose, 7-3.

Not only did the game signify Buchholz's second straight ugly start - he lasted 4 innings in a loss to Detroit last Wednesday - but the Sox dropped three of four in the Metrodome, though only 18,782 were on hand to witness the final game of the series.

This series left the Sox at 8-17 in the Metrodome since 2001. They are off to the final stop on their three-city trip, a mere 48 hours in Baltimore, where they hope for an easy welcome in Charm City.

After taking three of four from Detroit, a popular pick to win the American League Central, the Red Sox evened their road trip at 4-4 with the losses to Minnesota, a team that wasn't nearly as highly regarded.

"I don't care where people picked them," manager Terry Francona said. "They outplayed us."

They certainly outscored the Red Sox, if they didn't outhit them (12 hits for the Sox; 11 for the Twins). And though one of those hits for the Sox went out of the park, the team couldn't find a way to get baserunners home against Livan Hernandez, Juan Rincon, and Jesse Crain after the first inning. The Sox left 10 runners on base, going 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position.

That one hit? Manny Ramírez's 498th home run, which sailed out to right field, bringing home David Ortiz and bringing in the specially marked baseballs in anticipation of his 500th homer. ("I love it," said Ramírez. "I think those balls, they go farther than the other ones.")

"It feels good," Ramírez said of getting another homer out of the way. "But I ain't counting. I know I've got like two more to go, but I ain't thinking that much about that."

Buchholz, meanwhile, was thinking long and hard about his stuff in his last couple of outings. His road record now sits at 0-3, his road ERA at 8.64, and his frustration at high.

"I try not to hit or punch or kick or nothing," Buchholz said. "I'll throw some gloves and hats and that's about it. First time I've done it this year. It didn't make me feel any better, so I probably won't do it again."

The Sox, of course, hope it won't be necessary.

But it might be again. Not only is Buchholz struggling on the road, there's a recurring theme to his outings: No command of his fastball. It's what Francona has been repeating since spring training. Buchholz had no explanation again last night. No easy solution.

It might have been that he was trying to throw too hard. It might have been that he was trying to miss bats, nibbling too much. It might just have been an off night. The Twins were able to sit on his breaking pitches, because there simply weren't very many fastballs being thrown.

And not a lot of strikes. Along with the eight hits he gave up, Buchholz walked four. The first batter he faced reached in three of his five innings, all on walks, two of whom scored. The Twins scored two in the first inning, two in the third, and three in the fifth.

"I don't know what anybody can tell me," Buchholz said. "It's sort of in my hands right now, going out there and leaving pitches up. They get hit. That's what happens.

"I don't think the game sped up on me. It just felt like one thing led to another and that's where it all came together for them. Tried to pitch backwards, they were on it. Tried to go back to my fastball, couldn't throw it for a strike.

"I was sort of between a rock and a hard place. I wasn't mad. I'm just sort of ticked off right now. But at the same time, I've got to get ready for my next start."

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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